While taking on a new pet is a serious commitment that needs careful thought, the start of a New Year is a time to contemplate your lifestyle and resolve to improve your level of fitness and exercise. Getting a new pet is a very different decision to most other purchasing decisions, however it can be a very important step in resolving to live a more healthy lifestyle.

Both physical and mental wellbeing are rightly receiving much more attention than they used to and there is lots of evidence out there that pet ownership can have a significant positive impact on both our level of physical fitness and our mental wellbeing.

For many non-pet owners, going for a walk is a strictly “fair weather” activity. Having a dog who needs to be taken out for a walk is a fantastic motivator to get up from the sofa and get outside in the fresh (and sometimes very fresh) air.

The need to exercise your dog could be viewed as one of the negative aspects of pet ownership however, although many of us live very busy lives, if we need to, most of us can tag a dog walk onto the beginning and end of our day if we needed to. The health benefits of a couple of brisk walks a day are enormous.

Despite the health benefits, it is very important to fully consider the commitment involved and for some, dog ownership is just not practical however that need not exclude all pet ownership. Cats, while still being a very serious commitment, often need a little less time each day (and are probably even more reluctant than people to spend time outside when it is cold and wet). Rabbits, reptiles, birds and even tropical fish can all give us a feeling of self-worth and wellbeing without having to commit to walks on icy-cold mornings.

Children also benefit enormously from pet ownership. Owning a pet can teach children important lessons in responsibility, care, love and empathy. These are, in my opinion, really important life skills that children just can’t learn from a TV or tablet screen.

If you are considering a pet, you need to do your research. Some breeds of dog need much more exercise than others. You need to think about the time and space that you will need to commit and also the financial commitment that comes with pet ownership. In exchange for that commitment, pets will reward you and your family with many physical and emotional health benefits, the importance of which can not be over estimated.